As Day Three of the ongoing Alabama hostage crisis unfolds, one can only imagine the terror felt by the little six-year-old boy held against his will, away from his family, and under the gun, literally, of an “anti-government radical and survivalist” who shot and killed the school bus driver before yanking the boy from the bus and dragging him to a bunker behind his house.
We covered the breaking story early yesterday, when it was reported, that late in the afternoon on the day before, Midland City, AL, school bus driver Charles Albert Poland, Jr., was allegedly shot and killed by a man later identified as 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes. Per witness reports, Dykes boarded the school bus filled with grade school children when it stopped at one of its regular drop-off points. Brandishing a gun, Dykes announced to the bus driver that “I need two kids between the ages of 6 and 8.” When Poland replied, “I can’t do that,” and attempted to get away, Dykes allegedly shot and killed him. As the children watched in horror, Dykes then grabbed one reportedly five-year-old boy who, according to the young witnesses, was so terrified he fainted, giving Dykes the opportunity to carry him from the bus and take off in his vehicle.
In a scenario that sounds like a bad made-for-TV movie, Dykes then hightailed it to his rural home on the outskirts of Midland City, where he’s built a make-shift “survivalist” bunker in the back yard. He and his as-yet unidentified young hostage have been there ever since.
In the latest report, it appears the situation remains at a standoff, with little to suggest it’s going to end any time soon. Police, FBI, and other law enforcement have surrounded the bunker and according to local TV station WDHN, who were able to access a police dispatch early on in the event, officers are purportedly communicating with Dykes through a PVC pipe leading to the shelter. From the Washington Post/AP:
The boy being held was watching TV and getting medication sent from home, according to state Rep. Steve Clouse, who met with authorities and visited the boy’s family. Clouse said the bunker had food and electricity.
Authorities lowered medicine into the bunker for the boy after his captor agreed to it, Clouse said. […]
The situation remained unchanged for hours as negotiators talked to the suspect, Alabama State Trooper Charles Dysart told a news conference late Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Sheriff Wally Olson said that authorities had “no reason to believe that the child has been harmed.”
It has not been reported what the medicine is or what it’s administered for.
The fact that the sheriff believes the boy had not been harmed is hopeful but hardly reassuring for the family and those following the story. Particularly when the accruing stories about Dykes depict a man who has been described as “violent,” “paranoid,” and as a “gun nut” who’s had many dramatic run-ins with neighbors. One reported that he’d beaten her 120-lb dog with a lead pipe “for coming on his side of the road”; the dog later died. Another detailed a violent encounter with Dykes after the man mistakenly drove into his yard (Dykes was arrested after pulling a gun on the man and his daughter and is currently scheduled to appear in court on a “menacing” charge).
There are countless other disturbing anecdotes emerging from witnesses and neighbors, the critical mass of which can’t help but ratchet up concerns for his young hostage.
As is always the case in developing stories, the facts are fluid and we at Addicting Info will do our best to report the most current and accurate information we have access to. But as a media colleague Slate comments, evolving events can make that a challenge. In this case, even the age of the child has been in dispute:
It’s worth pointing out that this is still (obviously) a developing situation, and, as we’ve learned in the past, that means that some of the details currently being provided by authorities may not hold up in the long run. For instance, initial reports described the child as a 5-year-old, but since then there have been a smattering of reports identifying the hostage as being 6 years old.
Given that information, we’re reporting him as a 6-year-old … but clearly either age is far too young to be caught in the middle of this terrifying standoff.